About a year ago, I wrote a story about a young woman, Shelley Burggraaff, who arrived on Bonaire after solo sailing her 29-foot boat, North Wind, from Holland. A couple of weeks ago while bicycling down Kaya Playa Lechi, I saw Shelley again. Yes, she had flown back to Bonaire after leaving her boat on the island. And yes, North Wind was back in the water serving as her residence for a few months while the cold northern European winter stormed on. I asked about crewing on her boat if she planned to sail locally. Four weeks later, I got a call.
Joining us were my friends Suuz and Eunan, local dive masters and just generally great people. The wind was blowing hard, 24 knots gusting to 28. No matter. After Shelley picked us up from the Cha Cha Beach dock with her dingy, we set about putting a deep reef into the main sail. For you land lubbers, this means that we reduced the size of the boat’s biggest sail. It’s a lot like taking your foot off the gas. Time to cast off.
And we did. We sailed for north along the coast of Bonaire until the waves were breaking heavily over the bow. Everyone was fairly wet so we reefed the main sail again and tacked back in the direction from where we started. As we approached Cha Cha Beach, Shelley mentioned that the day was still young, only 4 pm, and that we should sail on.
And we did—south to Punt Vierkant, and further south still to the salt pier. By this time, the sun was streaking toward the horizon. We pointed North Wind north and headed back to Cha Cha Beach. Back on the mooring, we drank some beer and watched a dripping sunset. Shelley mentioned she needs to head back to Holland to make more money so that she can continue to sail the Caribbean and points beyond. I had wondered how long the young captain would last back in the mainstream when she left a year ago. The tug of the sea is mighty. While it rages at times, it gives so much back for those of us that capture the wind on its beautiful, undulating surface. Shelley leaves in a couple of weeks. I am sure I will see her again soon, back down island.